Scandinavian Burger: Where Beet, Not Meat, Is The Star
The beet is an old cultural plant that has been grown in Europe for over three thousand years but likely arrived in Scandinavia in the 15th of 16th century. Both the red beet and sugar beet stem from the beach beet, which grows wild along coastal Europe. Beets can be round, oval or cylindrical, but more commonly seen is the round shaped beet. Beets come in red, yellow or orange colors – my favorite dish is to make a colorful salad which include all the different types roasted, toss them with some good olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle a little good quality red wine vinegar over them and sprinkle with some fresh dill. Norway on a plate!
Beets are used in a variety of dishes in the Nordic countries, as it is a traditional root vegetable with a long history in the Nordic kitchen. Beets are served both warm and cold, the latter regularly in salads, and then there is of course red beet soup; borscht. Cooked, chopped beets are often added to ground meat, boiled beets are served with new potatoes with a dab of butter, and perhaps the best known way to serve these are pickled; either as a condiment to fish or as a topping on open faced sandwiches. I’ve also seen them pureed with butter and whipped into a cream, and with their bright red color, this not only tastes great but adds beautiful color to your plate. Besides beets being incredibly versatile and healthy with their low fat, high calcium, fiber and iron content, they are also amazingly tasty if you know how to prepare them to maximize their sweetness and underlying earthiness.
Beets are in season from May to November, when they are smaller in size and nice and tender, but they will keep well through the winter, which is why they are so popular in Norway. Regardless of the time of year, avoid selecting the very large beets, as they may not be as sweet and sometimes have a woody center. The leaves on the beet stalks are also very nutritious, and can be chopped up and sauteed with some olive oil and garlic for a delectable side dish. Don’t throw these out!
Since I no longer include meat or fish in my diet, I wanted to create a dish that would taste “meaty” without the meat, and much better! I have seen beet burgers on menus in restaurants before, but more often than not, the beets are boiled, then pureed and mixed with whatever other ingredients and fried on the flat top, much like any other burger. The result is generally a mushy mess in the center with an undesirable texture, reminiscent of baby food. The way I decided to do mine, is shred the beets while raw into thin pieces, then saute them on the pan, almost similar to hash browns. The result is a crispy exterior with a firm texture that better replicates the meat version. Simply perfection! When I had my catering company, Fork and Glass, we would make these and sell them in to- go containers at local farmer markets, and we could never make enough of these to serve everyone!
I love using a mixture of golden and red beets in the burgers for both taste and presentation.
I dare you to serve these to your meat eating friends or someone who has exclaimed before how much he/she hates beets – and see if they won’t change their mind next time they think of burgers!!
ARCTIC BEET BURGERS
2 cups raw red beet, grated
2 cups raw golden beet, grated
about 1 1/2 cups-2 cups oatmeal
2 tbsp flax seed mixed in 6 tablespoons of water
about 1/2 cup-1 cup sweet rice flour (you can use AP flour if you prefer)
3-4 large shallots, o4 1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced and sauteed/caramelized until soft and golden brown
5-6 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp canola or olive oil, for sauteing
Place the grated beet in a bowl, season with salt and squeeze out any moisture. Add the rest of the ingredients, season generously with salt and pepper, and let rest in fridge for about 1 hour.
Prepare a couple of sheet trays lined with paper towels. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the beet mixture and shape into a flat cake with your hands. Place them on a separate tray. Heat the oil in a skillet (I love using cast iron skillets) over medium heat and fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides.
Transfer the beets to sheet trays lined with parchment paper or paper towels until you finish the entire batter.
Besides serving them in the traditional burger bun, these are delicious accompanied with a grain salad or a green salad – topped with vegan dilled sour cream or a horseradish sauce. You can make these cakes the day before and reheat them in the oven. Who needs meat??